Survey commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada shows a significant shift in adoption attitudes
When Erin McKinney got the call about a little boy in foster care who needed a permanent home, she wasn’t sure she was ready to be a mother, but she went to the meeting anyway.
That was the day she met her son Nathaniel. “He was so cute. He was at a swimming lesson that day,” Erin recalls. “I just remember wanting to make sure he grew up safe and attached to our culture. If I hadn’t adopted him, he could have gone anywhere.”
Today, Nathaniel is 16 years old. He got his driver’s license and has been accepted into a program to become an electrician. “I know my mom loves me. She’s there for me, she makes sure I’m fed. She helps me reach my dreams,” he says.
Erin is the first to admit that her attitudes toward adoption changed after Nathaniel came into her life. “At first, I didn’t see the point. It’s just a piece of paper. But over time, I understood that it’s not just a piece of paper. It’s permanency. Not just for Nathaniel, but for me too.”
Erin is like many Canadians whose attitudes toward adoption have been shifting over the past 10 years. According to a new national survey conducted by The Harris Poll every five years on behalf of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada, 32% percent of Canadian adults, who have not adopted, have considered adoption. Of those individuals, 73% have considered foster care adoption, which is up 15% from 2017 and at an all-time high since the survey was first commissioned in 2012.
“Increased interest in and support for adoption is exactly what the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada has been working toward,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO. “We are very encouraged by the findings of this year’s survey.”
In general, familiarity with adoption and foster care adoption has increased significantly since 2017, with 15% of Canadians being extremely or very familiar with adoption (up from 9% in 2017) and 11% being extremely or very familiar with foster care adoption (up from 7% in 2017).
The new survey shows an improvement in public perception. Among those considering foster care adoption, there is a significant increase in positive opinions of the foster care system, from 50% in 2017 to 67% now. Of those not considering foster care adoption, there is a significant increase in positive opinions of the foster care system, from 39% in 2017 to 48% now.
“Building public support for foster care adoption is critically important,” Soronen said. “These children have simply had a rough start to life and deserve the stability and care of a permanent, loving family to help them thrive. We believe that every child is adoptable.”
And it seems more Canadians agree, with 68% of those surveyed believing that all children are adoptable, up 14% from 2017. And 74% of Canadians say society should be doing more to encourage foster care adoption, up 9% from five years ago.
While a growing number of Canadians believe more should be done to help youth in care, unfortunately, more than half (51%) mistakenly believe that children are placed in foster care because they are juvenile delinquents. “The idea that these children have done something wrong, causing them to be placed in foster care, continues to permeate society,” Soronen said. “It is a misconception that we must continue to fight.”
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada is a nonprofit public charity dedicated to finding forever families for children waiting in foster care. Through its Wendy’s Wonderful Kids™ program, the Foundation supports the hiring of adoption professionals, known as recruiters, who serve children and youth who have been waiting in foster care the longest. A rigorous, five-year national evaluation in the United States revealed that a child referred to the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program is up to three times more likely to be adopted.
The Foundation’s awareness campaigns highlight the urgent need for foster care adoption and work to dispel the myth that children are placed in foster care because they have done something wrong. These young people enter the system through no fault of their own because of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many are freed for adoption because it is unsafe for them to return to their family of origin.
Right now, more than 30,000 children are waiting to be adopted from foster care in Canada. Erin says she’s thankful her son isn’t one of them. “I don’t know where he’d be if I hadn’t adopted him, but I know he’s safe and on a good path now.”
About the Canada Adoption and Foster Care Attitudes Survey
The survey was conducted online within Canada by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada, from November 1–18, 2021 among 1,012 adults ages 18 and older who reside in Canada. Data are weighted to be representative of the Canadian adult population by gender, age, region, race, education and language. Data are also weighted to reflect respondents’ propensity to be online. The survey was published in February 2022.